THE POMPS AND VANITIES OF THE CHURCH

THE style of the spiritual peers is in keeping with their rank. The residence of a bishop is called a palace, his seat in the cathedral is a throne. The principal servant of Him who had not where to lay his head has three mansions at his disposal Lambeth Palace for a town house, and Addington Park and Stone House, Thanet, when he prefers to disport himself in the country. Every bishop keeps his chaplain to read prayers for him when his lordship is disinclined to perform this duty in person. The lower clergy address the members of the hierarchy with obsequious reverence ; they "My Lord" them and "Your Grace" them at every opportunity. For the prelates have a prodigious amount of spiritual patronage, livings in abundance to dispense to discreet inferiors. Though their pay has been cut down, it still equals that of any minister in the Government, to say nothing of palaces and sinecure benefices and other desirable perquisites.

Their demeanor corresponds with their condition ; there are no more pompous or inflated personages in the peerage. They wear breeches and shovel hats in the street and aprons at dinner, and are as scrupulous about the shape and the cut of their clothes as any courtier or Quaker going to a meeting or a levee. . They are people of high fashion, too. They like the pleasures of the world as well as its dignities. The present Archbishop of York has been caricatured in the public prints as the "Archbishop of Society," and the late Bishop of Oxford was familiarly known in aristocratic circles as "Soapy Sam." An antagonist once referred to his "saponaceous" [resembling or having the qualities of soap] quality in the House of Lords, and the allusion was so irreverent and felicitous that society was shocked and tickled in almost equal degree.

. Bishops, as a matter of course, are conservative in politics. They must, in the nature of things, approve the union of Church and State, and detest the Radicals, who advocate disestablishment. Many of them, it is true, have been appointed as Liberals. More sees of late years have happened to be in the gift of Liberal ministers than of Conservatives, and in the lists of the House of Lords you will find the bishops all classified according to their appointment. But once in place they are like the decrepid Pope who threw away his crutches as soon as he was elected; and the stanchest advocates of privilege and caste in England are the ministers of Him who declared the least among you shall be the greatest, and that His kingdom is not of this world.

Their votes can be counted on for every hoary abuse or vested wrong. Bishops have opposed every liberal measure ever introduced into Parliament; especially every ecclesiastical reform. They resisted Catholic emancipation, the removal of the disabilities of the Jews, the extension of university privileges to dissenters, and every approach to toleration, or to placing "the sects" on an equality with that Church of which they are the nobility. They fought bitterly against the disestablishment of the Irish Church, because they saw that it presaged and prepared the way for the deposition and dethronement of their own.

Their interference in politics is sometimes very positive. Not long ago during an agricultural agitation a bishop was addressing a meeting of farmers and laborers, and significantly recommended his hearers not to duck the agitators in the nearest horse-pond ; his advice was understood and appreciated. At the last elections the two primates of England, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, united in a political manifesto, adroitly inculcating the necessity of defending and maintaining the Establishment. They appeared only to enjoin caution in the exercise of the franchise; but as the Tories proclaimed and the bishops believed that disestablishment was at issue, the unprecedented archiepiscopal fulmination was as unmistakable as the episcopal allusion to a horse-pond. Yet all these right reverend and most reverend dignitaries would have denounced any resort to the Jesuitical methods of the disciples of Loyola.

Usually the highest in the hierarchy are plebeian in origin, perhaps because at the start they thought more highly of others than themselves, and so could submit more easily to slights, be more subservient to power; and, as preferment often depends upon subserviency, they have been more persistently promoted. But some are temporal peers in their own right, as well as lords spiritual, and some are the sons of peers. These are right honorable as well as right reverend. They do not lose their inherited rank because of any ecclesiastical honors they may acquire. For them the glory of the terrestrial and the glory of the celestial may be combined.

From magnates such as these to colonial bishops is a long step downward, almost as great a descent as to an American Father-in-God. The colonial bishops are, it is true, right reverend, but they do not belong to the aristocracy; they have no seats in the House of Lords, no palaces, hardly a chaplain. Nevertheless, they may wear the dress of their order, and the uninitiated often call them: "My Lord;" but they are not much invited in high society. They are Christians of the upper-middle class.

The wives, alas! of even the highest clerical potentates are not peeresses. They are in sight of the promised land, but may never enter. I have often seen them marching unwillingly at the tail of the procession to dinner, and heard them express their indignation, sometimes in hardly Christian terms, that they should be excluded from the place and precedence accorded to their husbands. Their sufferings at such times are evidently acute.

Queen Elizabeth once paid a visit to a certain Archbishop of Canterbury, who received Her Majesty in a manner becoming her station and his own. The monarch, however, disapproved the marriages of the clergy, and upon leaving Lambeth she acknowledged the hospitality of the archbishop's wife with royal arrogance : " Madam I will not call you; Miss I may not; but whatever you are, I thank you." The validity of the marriages of these ladies is no longer questioned, but their disagreeable position doubtless is a relic of the ancient uncertainty.

Nevertheless the episcopal and archiepiscopal dames make the most of the positions they occupy. Many of them have not fully renounced the pomps and vanities of the world, despite their baptismal vows; they like to throw open the episcopal saloons for balls and amateur theatricals, and Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like some of these. Others strive by every social art to advance their own position and their husband's rank, though, as often happens in other spheres, their ambition sometimes exceeds their tact. I remember a bishop, who was universally supposed to have been egged on by his wife into utterances of a political character that damaged not only his spiritual usefulness, but his temporal prospects they so overshot the mark. Another lady was believed to have inspired her son, who wanted the post of Chamberlain of London, a plebeian but very profitable place. The young man issued a circular setting forth his own qualifications, prominent among which he mentioned that he was the eldest son of a peer, and all society tittered at the eldest son of a peer who could never succeed his father.

The pomp and circumstance that surround the English prelates once made a profound impression on some of their Episcopal brethren from America, who looked with admiring eyes on Lambeth and the bishops' bench in the House of Peers. Satirical Englishmen used to say that the consecrated republicans were sure to simper if they were called "My Lord," and some of them got breeches and aprons to wear to dinner. They said that being in England it was proper to dress as bishops in England do. By the same rule American army officers in England should wear the British uniform. I fear the right reverend fathers were anxious for once to feel like peers. [As Written]

Aristocracy In England by Adam Badeau - New York Harper & Brothers, Franklin Square 1886, Copyright, 1885, 1886 div




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